A very windy day did not stop 8510 runners to cross the line in the 36th Roma Ostia Half Marathon, held today on the classic course from Rome to the beach of Ostia. However, it did slow down the winners, both from Kenya, Peter Kimeli and Alice Timbilil, who clocked 1:01:51 and 1:10:34 respectively.
The weather conditions, all the protagonists said after the race, slowed the final times by about 40 to 50 seconds, as in the last 2 km the wind formed a kind of wall in front of the runners.
Men's race - A big surprise
Kimeli was the big surprise of the race. For the 20-year-old from Eldoret, a younger brother of Matthew Kisorio -a 13:02 and 27:15 runner on the track - this was his first trip outside of Kenya. However, he showed no fear towards his favoured compatriots, 2006 Roma Ostia champion William Todoo Rotich (PB 1:00:12) and last year’s winner Elijiah Keitany, who ran the distance in 1:00:10 and has a Marathon PB of 2:06:41.
After a slow start, with a 4km split of 11:49, the pace increased with a 2km split of 5:31 (17:20). After 9km Kimeli himself pushed hard with a 2:47 km that reduced the pack to four: Kimeli, Todoo, Keitany and Ethiopia's Tujuba Megersa, who has a PB of 1:00:16.
Keitany lost ground surprisingly at 14km, while Megersa was dropped at 18. Todoo resisted Kimeli's move, but he was out-sprinted in the last metres, closing two seconds behind. Megersa was third with 1:02:16.
"I did not expect to win today," said Kimeli, who is coached by Italy's Claudio Berardelli. "I felt good while running, so I tried to do something." This was the 10th consecutive victory here by a Kenyan.
"I wanted to win, but Peter was stronger than me," Todoo added. "That's all. Now I will focus on the Milano City Marathon on April 11." But there is no marathon in Kimeli's future. "I will continue to race on shorter distance this year," he said.
Two Italians, former European 3000m indoor champion Cosimo Caliandro and Daniele Meucci, caught Keitany and fought for the fourth place. Caliandro out-sprinted Meucci, but they both were given the same time of 1:02:41.
Women's race - A battle of just two
France's Christelle Daunay, second last year and then third at the New York City Marathon, was one of the pre-race favourites, but she lasted just kilometres before losing ground. The race was a matter between Timbilil and Italy's Rosaria Console, the 2005 winner.
At 9km Console was forced to stop with a problem in her shoe, losing 30 metres. She closed the gap over the next two kilometres (split at 10km 33:37) and the two leaders ran shoulder-by-shoulder until 18km.
At that point Timbilil, who is cousin of Olympic 1500m champion Nancy Lagat and was the 1999 World youth champion in the 3000m and World Cross Country silver medallist in 2005, pushed hard and Console was not able to follow. The Italian crossed the line 20 seconds behind, just few metres before Kimeli.
Actually, the organizer Luciano Duchi repeated an experiment began last year with the leading women starting nine minutes before the men and there was a bonus for the one who crossed the line first.
"I did not realize that Console had a problem with her shoe, as I was always in the front pushing," Timbilil said. "Without the wind I'm sure I could have broken 1:10."
"It was a good race, as I had run a half marathon just 11 days ago," Console said, referring to her appearance in Ras Al Khaimah on 17 February, where she clocked 1:11:49.
Daunay was a disappointed third in 1:13:39.
Alberto Zorzi for the IAAF
Leading Results (21,097km):
Men - 1. Peter Kimeli, KEN 1:01:51 2. William Todoo Rotich KEN 1:01:54 3. Tujuba Megersa, ETH 1:02:16 4. Cosimo Caliandro, ITA 1:02:41 5. Daniele Meucci, ITA 1:02:41 6. Elijah Keitany, KEN 1:02:49 7. Hillary Kiprono, MAR 1:03:09 8. Abraham Talam, KEN 1:03:18 9. Julius Too, KEN 1:03:48 10. Mulatu Hailemeskel, ETH 1:04:41
Women - 1. Alice Timbilil, KEN 1:10:34 2. Rosaria Console, ITA 1:10:54 3. Christelle Daunay, FRA 1:13:39 4. Soumiya Labani, MAR 1:16:55 5. Marcella Mancini, ITA 1:17:15